Mark Tears Down His Harley Davidson to Build Something Better

By January 16, 2019 January 17th, 2019 Food for thought

When a Harley starts burning oil, you have two choices. Find out why or ignore the burn and keep a fresh quart in your side bag.

Mark’s was burning oil and it’s not that old. It’s a 2013 Street Glide, second owner and the first didn’t ride it a whole lot. I think it had maybe 5,000 miles on it when Mark bought it out of his barn a couple years ago. The burning has been something he keeps an eye on because he doesn’t like it but knows it’s a pricey repair.

There’s a stigma about these bikes leaking oil. It’s accepted because it’s just what a Harley does. (Talk about branding!) Mark was a Kawasaki loyalist for a long time for performance and minor maintenance, and he trades bikes around often. We have an acceptable joke that we forget what bikes he’s owned through the years. He never loses a dime, just switches them out every couple of years because he can. Heck he’s got a Suzuki out there for “Fast Time”. I don’t care anymore about getting on it nor going that fast. I did it when we could only afford one bike and he had the speed itch. But now? Have at it. You can have both. When he uses that one I’m taking a walk with my new audio book, buddy.  It’s a win/win that we have a blast riding the Harley together. That’s the one I want. And it’s much more comfortable on long rides and with other couples when planning day or vacation trips with my backrest-sit-horsey-style-relaxation.

To repair the current Harley problem, which were leaking rings within the depths of the engine, les be honest, you probably need a mechanic. And if you’re going to have it taken down to basically a frame with wheels and handlebars, you might as well add more power to the project. Right?

To say this DIY project idea was exciting is an understatement. I did everything I could to support his focus time by covering the daily chores couples usually share so his work, workouts, sleep and quality family time were all he needed to worry about.

I also avoided the garage unless beckoned  because it was hard to walk thru it, even though that’s where the grown up beverages are. The agony!  I avoided because I am not a sufficient partner when it comes to motorcycle engines or even the basic need to just hold something so he could use two hands to do something else.

I suck. I don’t like to suck. But I suck. Even though I truly try to be awesome at being a helper. I have to frustrate him. But I so get it. I assume it’s like when I am trying to explain something in every single analogy I can imagine and still can’t convey my point to someone. I imagine it feels like that. He keeps it on the high level though, we were never mad at each other through this whole motorgedden.

Anyhoo. The point here. Exciting.

Here’s why:

It was all of us coming together to support him. 

I am so excited that Mark took on a big challenge like this for the first time. It wasn’t just the time commitment to do this intricate puzzle – I imagine a thousand piece puzzle that’s all one color. Definitely not for the mainstream, that’s for sure.  With his already impressive engineering intelligence and regular repair on his own (Everything except changing the tires, although he still removes the wheels and takes them to the dealership’s machine), he had his brothers, nephew and parents for support both by phone and/or in person. I suppose my Ohio Wirtz girls Aubs and Carman get props too – because they didn’t mind their spouses’ frequent visits here and came over with them twice to have some wine with me and catch up. His Mom wanting text updates. Our boys being interested in it (somewhat, lol). It was a fun week of visits!

He also understood the complexity of the challenge and had the courage to invest his wallet above his threshold level of comfort, even though we knew it had to be done. If not by him personally, then paying a dealership to do it. So I thought his investment made sense – even when he had to buy new tools to get it done, uncovered a couple more things needed while disassembled, plus you might as well make it faster since you’d have to tear it down again if you ever wanted to. He still saved a thousand or more by deciding to go for it.

He got out of his comfort zone and took a chance based on self-confidence

What if he couldn’t do it? He already studied hours of awesomely helpful Fuel Moto demo videos of the entire process and who-knows-how-many-steps. He already received the boxes of all the parts and tools he ordered or bought from Fuel Moto, K&N, Dynojet, Sears,  and Lowes.

Each step of this mindset building process – from watching the video complexities and rewatching for reminders, to hitting the enter button on ordering parts to actually doing it and risking  something wrong to a bike we thoroughly enjoy together – was another push out of his comfort zone and into his confidence zone. I couldn’t be more proud to call him my husband.

OK, enough wife commentary and back to the ambiguous stuff of the story.

His Genuine Heart for the Timeliness of the Whole Thing.

People could say, yeah – that’s a perfect winter/January project. You can’t ride anyway, you’re home, and you’d just be binging on GOT so you’re refreshed for April’s season finale that took two flipping years to make. I know, It’s just like  an 80 hour perfect movie. But 2 years.  C’mon.

He did it to put some joy into this specific week of this month of this year. He did something big enough that if Jon were still here, he’d be just as proud, enthusiastic and on the phone like Steve, Dad and Kevin were from afar.

Kinda hoping that maybe he was.

Mark spent 18-20 hours in a period of 8 days on this project, during the rest of the times he wasn’t working construction, hanging out with me and/or the boys, exercising or sleeping minimally. He was out there. Focused on the Harley while playing really good music. Those eight days had been a fairly casual urgency. I knew he wanted it done but he didn’t risk his healthy balance of sanity. Yet on Saturday, January 12th he got up and out of bed by 8 am (WHY? leave me sleep in because I can please) and said he should have it down in hopefully 12 hours, worst case before midnight. What’s your rush?

Two unexpected things happened.

Around noon, he needed a crows foot which is like the end of a wrench that you attach on a socket. At least that’s how I see it.  He went all over town and no one had any,  Like five different places. He finally went over to a motorcycle dealer and they lent him one in exchange for holding his driver’s license which seemed cool to me. I know SO many companies who don’t have real, commonsense people that are driven to do the right thing and find a way to help a customer. Even if this exchange is more common than I realize and they have a policy in place – it’s still a win/win concept fo free.

For Vance:  Aggretsuko Check it out on Netflix. <My Face>.

And then it turns out, the first place he went, Auto Zone, did have it and didn’t realize it the first time they turned him away. Mark said the corporate website had it in stock at their location. They must’ve tried harder when he came back a second time and insisted their high level inventory logistics is probably more right? IDK, assumption there. So they got the sale so he has one next time.

The crows foot set him back a couple hours. And there were some issues with getting a lifter up? (I think that’s what it was. I was of no help and tried so hard to be!)

He pushed it right up to midnight,  taking bathroom breaks and trying to get it fired up before the day ended. It was at that moment, I realized he started the project purposefully around the three year mark of his little brother having a stroke at the gym – to finishing on the final day there wasn’t any more they could do for him, all hope was lost and he passed.





I’m sure Jon heard it roar. Man it was loud. But it happened on Sunday, January 13th around 11:20 AM. First try. With Jeff and Tyler standing right there recording a video for his parents and brothers in Iowa. Perhaps that was a mischievous little brother stepping in to change the timeline so that it’s a new day. The next day. The next step of insurmountable grief. Plus Honor is  honor – even a couple hours late.

It gave all the family something cool to talk about during that painful week while Mark did something they all agree is awesomely brave. For the last three years, I’d say this feeling of encouragement in a time of grief would be impossible to achieve. It’s still bitter sweet but I think they appreciate this experience as much as I do. Mark never mentioned his thought behind that timeline tribute until the day he was to finish and didn’t. Then it quadrupled in meaning for me. I don’t know if he told anyone. Or ever will.

During our discussion of me really wanting a live video of his first attempt to start it up, he agreed to do it if we promised that if he failed, I’d delete it forever and he’d try again after finding the fix. I agreed to the terms because I never doubted him. His first try was a charm.

Fuel Moto clearly demonstrated on Youtube, but I still don’t understand 90% of any of how each piece works and where it goes and challenge the rest of us 90% (my math) to be able to. It’s a big victory we’ll always remember. Well done, Mark. Needless to say, he’ll probably be hanging on to this Harley a lot longer than the usual bikes.

So here’s everything he accomplished:


  • 107 Big Bore Kit
  • Cams
  • Cam bearings
  • Lifters
  • Adjustable push rods
  • Valve guide seals
  • Dynojet tuner
  • K&N air filter
  • Pistons
  • Rings
  • Cylinders.*

Special Thank YOUs to Mark’s family, especially Jeff and Tyler who would come over any time he called for whatever (and have a beer). Fuel Moto. Honda Powersports. Our BFFs Shawn and Tiff for moral support and interest, heck even Tiff2’s Shawn who hung out one evening, and of course, everyone reading this now.

Plus, I got to witness him do an amazing thing even though selfishly, while he did, I went all Maria Kondo crazy on the house, wrote this and hung out with the kids watching Netflix, Monopoly and whatnot. I’m helping, right?

Hope you liked my story.




*He may or may not have had to repeat himself while I slowly typed all those words of his accomplishments out exactly correct for all you knowledgeable colleagues out there. But sidebar – in my defense I struggle to hear him sometimes – is it me or him??? I didn’t work on sod cutter machines tearing my ears up during my 90’s millennial days. Just saying. So..  50/50 hearing and me not knowing any of this anyway.




Here’s to being real in a FAF time

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